Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
April 11th, 2021
Excerpt from

My friends,
gather for the dream.
Trumpets sound silver,
the shofar calls,
the feast of fat foods
and fine wines is spread;
the meal awaits,
your place is set,
and the Bridegroom comes.

Do you not hear his feet
gentle upon the mountain?
Flowers yield fragrance,
Earth trembles,
trees bend as he draws near,
strewing flowers before him
to carpet the way.
Stones soften beneath his step;
streams run, leap,
cascading down rock
while rainbows arc
in the spray.

Come speedily!
Leave your tent-making,
your spinning and fishing,
your selling and haggling.
Leave fields and pastures,
temples and synagogues.
Leave the sheep in their pen,
chickens to their scratching,
turtledoves in the temple court.
Leave villas and hovels,
city streets and dusty tracks.
Leave all and come!
The Bridegroom draws near!

Come as you are!
Bring nothing but yourselves.
Leave behind canes
and crutches,
money bags, jewels,
phylacteries and beggars' cups.
Come! Come empty!

Unclench your fists!
Stretch out your hands
to claim the inheritance --
here there is room for you
and for all who have known
the swollen belly
and parched tongue,
the aching heart and weary feet,
the closed door
and unsmiling face.
Here is a feast for the poor!
Do you not see him
gentle upon the mountain,
fanned by the four winds,
robed in the sun?
Are not your hearts
pierced by his gaze,
wounded by his love?
Does not your flesh
tremble at his coming?
Gather for the dream,
for the lavish feast--
the Beloved is here,

Woman Dreamer, 1989


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  1. What image evokes a sense of Divine Mercy for YOU?
  2. In what way does Jesus extend mercy to Thomas and how does Thomas respond?
  3. To whom do you need to extend mercy at the present time?
  4. How has God shown you mercy in your life and how have you responded?

Greetings, SBT Readers!

On this, the Second Sunday of Easter, Catholic churches across the world will be praying for an end to the pandemic. Given that this Sunday is also Divine Mercy Sunday, it seems appropriate that we should unite in prayer on this day devoted to Christ's infinite compassion; sadly, however, our language and imagery regarding this feast are too narrow and exclusionary, not only for members of other Christian churches but also for many Catholics who are unable to identify with the depiction of an Aryan, effeminate Christ.

As a child, I was drawn to an image much like the traditional Divine Mercy Jesus. In my aunt's bedroom, surrounded by candles and flowers, was a large portrait of Jesus who was pointing towards his heart. Every time I visited Aunty Doris, I would peek in her bedroom to gaze at the painting; I felt as though the eyes followed me around the room, looking upon me in love while the candles flickered in welcome. Decades later, however, I can understand how depictions of a white Jesus with flowing long curls would be foreign-- even offensive-- to many racial and ethnic groups. The image that Catholics now identify with Divine Mercy is a relic of the 1940's and 50's, sometimes digitally enhanced so that pulsating streams of mercy cascade from the Sacred Heart. As for instructions to the faithful, they, too, predate contemporary spirituality, with promises of "plenary indulgences" in return for the recitation of certain prayers, acts of mercy and repentance for sin.

I realize that my comments may be offensive to some readers, but I believe that the concept of Divine Mercy needs to be liberated from outdated theology, language and imagery. Christ's compassion extends to all peoples everywhere, especially to the poor and suffering, to the sick and dying, to the victims of injustice, to those tortured by fear and guilt. His invitation does not depend upon rote prayers, or formulaic practices; instead, he invites us to come as we are, in all our imperfection, and to throw ourselves upon his mercy:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mt 11:28-30

Blessings and Mercy!


On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the authorities, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Jn 20:19-31

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy." (Mt 5:7)

That mercy was a core value for Jesus is evident both from his teachings and his actions; in fact, he embodied the presence of mercy and instructed his disciples to imitate him in their dealings with others. Mercy, of course, is also one of the Divine attributes that we see consistently in the Hebrew scriptures. As a Jew, Jesus would have encountered God's tender mercy in the sacred stories of his tradition -- stories of sin and failure in which the various characters find forgiveness and the promise of new beginnings, of better days to come. Through the prophets, for example, God expresses outrage at the people's apostasy and lack of justice, but consistently invites them back, if they will only turn from evil. No doubt Jesus' mandate to forgive "seventy times seven" (Mt 18:22) was shaped by these sacred stories and all that they reveal concerning an infinitely loving and merciful God.

On one level, the parable of the Prodigal Son can be interpreted as a commentary on the nature of Divine mercy: the spendthrift son who has brought shame on his family, himself and his religion not only finds welcome upon returning home but is reinstated as "heir," though he has squandered his own share of the inheritance. The father, in fact, is "prodigal" in his loving -- nothing is spared or held back; much to the chagrin of the penny-pinching older brother, all is poured out, without restraint. And isn't that our experience when we "return home" after straying from the path? Isn't it amazing how immediately God responds to our tears of penitence, reinstating us in grace, reaching out so that we can get back on our feet once more, giving us the courage and resilience we need to continue the journey?

In this Sunday's Gospel, the Risen Christ breaks through the fears, regrets and grief of his guilt-ridden disciples. There are no reprimands, no accusations, but only the gift of peace -- and, not only that, but the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the mandate to heal the world. In a moment, tears turn to joy, humiliation gives way to mission, and the forgiven must now go forth to set others free from the bondage of sin -- and so it is with us when we seek refuge in the wounded heart of God!


I'm in the middle of moving and I'm afraid SBT production has been delayed as of late. What's taking time is sorting through the bits and pieces of my life, from teaching resources to retreat props, from photography studio equipment to technology...

Having just emptied 2 storage lockers, I am now
trying to "cull" my inventory of poetry books. If you live in the Chicago area and are associated with a group that might enjoy copies of Leaning Into Light and Woman Dreamer, I would be happy to donate copies if you can pick them up. Please contact me by email for details. If you live further afield, I could possibly ship copies if you handle the UPS fees!

You can learn more about these poetry collections by visiting my website:

This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. During COVID-19, sessions are by phone or on Zoom; I am also available to facilitate "virtual" retreats for groups and individuals.
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart | |

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,